Likes: Lemonade, All in a Day’s Work, Rage, Two Sides, Bye Baby
Dislikes: Secret Lover
Overall: Acceptable album, but the shortcomings will be glaring to avid fans
In the summer of 2013, the hearts of MTV’s Making the Band 3 fans stopped because the near-impossible happened: Danity Kane, the result of said TV program, had reunited and was back in the studio for an album. The all-female pop/R&B quintet unraveled on-air in 2008 after Bad Boy Records label head, Sean “Diddy” Combs, fired 2 members (Aubrey O’Day & Wanita “D.Woods” Woodgett) in the midst of a discussion about business affairs and issues within the group. Groups don’t usually rise from such ashes and if they do, it’s 20 years later, but 4 out 5 members had returned. *Jack Skellington voice* What kind of crazy, lucky, unforeseen miracle was this? Apparently, 1 too good to be true because just a year later, 4 dropped to 3 and after accusations of secret recording alterations and a physical incident, Danity Kane was no more…again. *Bows head* The consolation prize was that their completed album, DK 3, was released regardless. So is this prize beholding of the now invaluable status that it has?
In critiquing this 10-track LP, there are 2 angles from which to assess it: A) as part of a discography from a group with notable changes and B) as a stand-alone with no pretext. In some areas, the angles meet in the middle and intersect. The most glaring component and elemental weakness is the vocals. Absent members Woodgett and Aundrea Fimbres functioned like a triangle with Dawn Richard. Woodgett’s sultry voice was the most base-line R&B and conceivably the thickest, Fimbres was known as the “power-houser” and Richard had trademark emotiveness and rasp. O’Day’s sex-kitten breathiness and Shannon Bex’s sturdiness and clarity were complimentary connectors and helped build the pop proportions in the group’s sound. That said, DK3 is vocally meatless. Without the other layers in between, Bex is significantly more indistinct against O’Day and Richard is taking a hefty backseat, being a queen of pre-choruses. From angle A, it conspicuously doesn’t feel like home. It’s all very “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto.” From angle B, it’s a bland and nondescript ring, but not unusual for pop (though the record is categorized as R&B/soul on ITunes). The ears usually lean on melody in that case, which leads me to the music and production.
With more appropriately leveled frequencies and aural sharpness (aside from occasional over-compression), this is plausibly the best production of the ladies’ collection. 2006’s Danity Kane didn’t sound at all like it was recorded in a state-of-the-art studio and was the poorest quality I’ve heard of a mainstream release. 2008’s Welcome to the Dollhouse was a huge improvement, but wasn’t as well-adjusted in terms of mix, volume and equalizer for its time and the vocals were sometimes muddy. The catch here is the subdued temperament. You get revved up in beginning, only to be parked for the rest of the album. If you were expecting a gallon of “Lemonade,” you’re only getting a cup. It reminded me of Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience. I thought I was going to get a bunch of “Suit & Tie,” but instead it was a mid-tempo-palooza. The sexy-time songs (“Tell Me” & “Secret Lover”) don’t reawaken, not sizzling like “Strip Tease” or “Lights Out” from Dollhouse. “Two Sides” is engaging (the transition between it and the preceding “Tell Me” is lovely) and “Roulette” will surely win the affection of 80’s lovers; bring out the Flashdance socks. Again, from angle B, the tempo shift may be a slight downer, but tracks like “Sides” make it not so bad of a ride and perfect for night-cruising. From angle A, it’s not the “snappy, sassy and sexy” you come to Danity Kane for. Lyrically, there aren’t any problems, with “Damaged” co-writers Jonathan Yip, Ray Romulus and Jeremy Reeves dominating the credits. Actually, 1 could say the content has stronger character, having a less “plaything” and submissive tone than before.
For someone who’s hardly heard of a Danity Kane and wonders what the phrase means, DK3 will be a suitable pop album. For those who know that Danity Kane is a super-heroine of Richard’s imagination that was inspired by her group members, it will be cherished because it’s a parting gift, but a reminder of how much things changed. It kind of doesn’t represent what they were and at just 10 songs, it feels incomplete and like unfinished business.